Research shows that these vehicles are safest when they're operated, loaded equipped and maintained properly. Although they're similar to other light vehicles, there are things you can do to make them safer.
Driver training and licensing
These vans handle differently than passenger vehicles, especially when fully loaded with people or luggage/equipment. Drivers operating 15-passenger vans should consider taking a professional driver improvement training course.
A Class 5 driver's licence is required to operate a 15-passenger van; however, 15-passenger vans that are registered to transport passengers for hire (with some exceptions) require a minimum of a Class 4 driver's licence.
It's especially important to inspect the van's tires before each use and to check tire pressure monthly as pressure can have an impact on the vehicle's traction and handling. To find the required tire pressure and the best tire type for your vehicle, you can look in the following locations:
- your owner's manual;
- on the tire information label located on the driver's door;
- inside the driver's door frame, or;
- inside the glove compartment door.
Some vehicles are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that inform the driver when the tire pressure is too low. Even if your vehicle is equipped with this technology, you should manually check your tire pressure at least once a month.
Tire condition is important for safe vehicle control and to reduce the risk of rollover. Check to ensure your tires are in good condition and have sufficient tread depth. Equip the vehicle with the appropriate tires for weather and road conditions.
Fifteen-passenger vans are large vehicles that do not respond well to abrupt steering and require additional braking time. They also require the driver to rely on side and rear-view mirrors. That's why it's important for those driving 15-passenger vans to familiarize themselves with operating the vehicle and use safe driving methods, driving at the speed limit and reducing speed according to road and weather conditions.
The driver and all passengers in 15-passenger vans are required use seatbelts. Children should be using the appropriate child safety seat for their weight and height.
All drivers should give the road their full attention, avoid distractions and be sure they are well rested and up to the task of driving, planning regular breaks to stay alert. Driving drowsy reduces attentiveness and increases the time it takes to react to potential hazards.
Drivers operating 15-passenger vans inter-provincially may be subject to Hours of Service requirements that limit the number of hours that they can be on-duty and driving.
Maintenance and inspections
All drivers and owners of 15-passenger vans should ensure that the vehicle is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. They should be inspected daily by the driver before they're used. Saskatchewan regulations require 15-passenger vans used for a commercial purpose to be inspected once each 24-hour period the vehicle is in use.
In addition, 15-passenger vans (both for private and commercial use) are required to be inspected annually (or semi-annually if travelling inter-provincially) by a certified inspection technician as part of the provincial periodic motor vehicle inspection program.
Loading passengers and cargo
The way a van is loaded and the distribution of the weight can change how it handles. It's important to follow the loading instructions in the van owner's manual.
A 15-passenger van should be loaded from the front to the back:
- never allow more than 15 people to ride in a 15-passenger van;
- when the van is not full, passengers and cargo should be loaded in front of the rear axle;
- fill the front passenger seats first and then put cargo in empty seats or on the floor to the front of the vehicle or evenly distribute it throughout the vehicle;
- roof racks, rear cargo boxes and tow trailers should be avoided as they will negatively affect the handling and stability of the vehicle (if you do use them, ensure that the heavier cargo is inside the vehicle and never exceed the recommended weight limitations).
The easiest way to know how much weight your van is designed to carry is to:
- find the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) on the driver's door post or in your owner's manual;
- find the weight of the empty van (net weight) in your owner's manual, then;
- subtract b from a and the remainder is how much weight you can add (i.e., people, fuel and cargo).
If you cannot find your owner's manual, you may be able to find one online (e.g., manufacturer's website) or alternatively, you can get a new one from your local dealer.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Vehicle testing has proven that there are many benefits to the use of an Electronic Stability Control System (ESC) which can improve vehicle handling and help prevent loss of vehicle control and reduce rollovers. In Canada, 15-passenger vans have been equipped with ESC since 2005/2006, as a standard option. Check your owner's manual to confirm whether your van is equipped with ESC. If your van does not have ESC, it cannot be retrofitted.
As of September 2011, all of these vans were required by federal regulation to be manufactured with ESC. If you are purchasing or renting a 15-passenger van, it's recommended that you get one equipped with an ESC system.
306-775-6188 (in Regina)
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